‘Sara’-the silent threat looming over dairy cattle
A silent threat called SARA has been looming large over the health of ruminating cattle with changing feeding patterns excluding green grass and hay in the diet of the milch cattle.
The condition, called SARA or subacute ruminal acidosis, results from feeding the milking cattle with high carbohydrate content food with inadequate amounts of fibre resulting in low ruminal pH in their digestive systems.
With the immense shortfall in grazing lands the farms have become ever more reliant on cattle feeds. An immediate consequence of the increased carbs fed to the animals to improve their milking quality is SARA that can cause serious shortfalls in the long term productivity of the animals and affect their health adversely.
The condition mostly goes undiagnosed due to the mild symptoms leading to long term damage. It may take weeks or months for the signs to even manifest. The animal may suddenly reduce the amount of food it consumes in a day or two. The animal may also experience slight diarrhea and the dung may be frothy. The fat content in the milk may also drop rapidly.
There may also be diarrhea on intermittent days with the animals developing trouble with foot and hoof conditions which are a clear sign of SARA. Inflammation of the uterus and the breast and reproductive problems will follow. In short, the short term benefits of increased productivity will soon be offset by drastic loss in productivity in the long run.
The microbes in the inner lining of the cow's intestines need at least one to four weeks to adjust to new food patterns. So instead of rapidly changing the diet in one go, the animal's diet must be slowly changed over a period by acclimatizing it to the new food from the pregnancy time onwards.
Adding baking soda into the mix may also be greatly helpful. The ruminants may also be fed with the total mixed ration pattern feeds which will ensure adequate nutrition. Ensuring ample amounts of fibre is also a sure shot way to counter SARA.
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